Elections in America: the logistical nightmare of counting votes across the country

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It’s for several reasons: county-by-county scrutiny, increased mail-in ballots due to the pandemic, and the Electoral College system, which does not take into account the simplest measure of the total nationwide.

Counting the votes that will decide who will be the president of the United States in the next four years has become an administrative nightmare that can last more than 48 hours for several reasons: county-by-county counting, increased mail ballots due to the pandemic and the Electoral College system, which does not take into account the simplest measure of the total at the national level.

The press witnessed this Wednesday the massive logistical counting operation in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Hundreds of black sealed briefcases lined with thousands of votes processed by mail waiting to be manually prepared to be counted.

The counting process in the US, the fourth largest country on the planet, tends to be slower than in other developed nations and this year has been affected by the strong increase in voting by mail and on paper (deposited in mailboxes outdoors or in polling stations) due to the COVID-19 pandemic since this type of ballot requires tedious manual handling and slow.

In large ships like the one at the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Convention Center, dozens of county officials have spent the past two days open each of the two envelopes in which Pennsylvania mail ballots were mailed this year, flattening the ballots and feeding the machines that automatically scan and register the vote.

This centralized county-by-county process has been repeated in Maricopa, Arizona, the second-largest electoral jurisdiction in the entire United States, where election officials they still process 1.2 million ballots, including those deposited during election day that were filled out on paper with a marker and not digitally as in other parts of the country.

The count in counties such as Allegheny, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Maricopa or Fulton (Georgia) is closely followed throughout the country, since, because they are the most populous, they will decide whether the electoral votes of their respective states will be They award the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, or the US President, Donald Trump.

The impossibility of projecting a winner of the elections without deciding some key states (most of which are approaching or exceeding 90% of the vote today) it is due to the Electoral College system, which awards a defined number of delegates to the winner of the popular vote in each state.

Although Biden comfortably leads the counting of the popular vote, this measure does not serve to project the winner of the elections without ending the count in every corner of the country and therefore makes an early certainty about who will be the winner impossible.

In other developed countries, there are also calculations that take into account the distribution of the population in some way, but once the counting data begins to arrive, these are agglutinated at the national level and the photo, both in a presidential democracy, as a parliamentary one. , begins to emerge quickly.

In addition, in other countries with stable and modern democracies, electoral day takes place on a public holiday (usually a Sunday), so the influx to the polls is easier, while in the United States, which this year has increased the days of Face-to-face early voting due to the pandemic always falls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The US authorities presume that electoral decentralization and federated independence of each state when managing the recount it is the foundation of the health of American democracy.

However, such decentralization is not as effective when scrutiny is centralized within its vast territories.

Contrary to how it is done in Spain or France, where each electoral college not only collects the vote, but also counts it and deals with a first tabulation, in the United States the schools only monitor identification and access to the voting booth and they do not count the votes.

Ballots that have been filled out with marker and paper are sent to a counting center in the county, where the votes also arrive by mail and where the ballots are counted; a process that can also be seen in person, by webcam and by party officials.

This process would not be a big problem in a normal year, since much of the execution of this right is done in digital booths connected to data centers, but this year the paper vote has taken a special role. with 64 million votes received by post before November 3.

“It takes time for the counties to process so much absentee vote,” Gabriel Sterling, the person in charge of implementing the voting system in Georgia, explained today that before speed prevails, rigor.


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